Stand Up to Domestic Violence
Background & Procedures
Mary Lou Heissenbuttel was instrumental in the creation of the Court watch Program in the Fall of 2011 and a call went out for all volunteers who were interested in domestic violence issues to join the cause and assemble for training in February 2011. Following 4 sessions of training, volunteers were then disseminated to Dutchess County Family Court as well as town courts in Wappingers Falls, Poughkeepsie, and Hyde Park. Monitors were given forms to keep track of a numbers of issues related to the courtroom and court procedures. Issues of concern revolved around demeanor in the courtroom, accommodations for special needs, victim safety, clarity of proceedings, parental alienation syndrome, strangulation, firearms, clear delineation of items in Orders of Protection, as well as other issues.
Data Collection & Sharing of Information
Monitors filled out forms corresponding to selected issues of concern. Over 258 Family Court cases and 61 Criminal Court cases were monitored. The data was then collected and analyzed. On April 5, Mary Lou Heissenbuttel and Karen Gomba presented their findings to interested judges, court clerks and officers at a brown-bag lunch in the Poughkeepsie Court Building. AAUW findings were reviewed in a spirit of collaboration and a desire to seek adjustments in key areas.
Court Monitoring Newsletter
Recently, a Court-Monitoring Newsletter was sent to all monitors in the program as well as others who expressed an interest in knowing more about the Court Monitoring Initiative. The newsletter discussed the Restructuring and reorganization of the Court Monitoring Initiative in order to update and improve the program. The newsletter also announced the creation of a new staff of leadership which consists of AAUW members Karen Gomba, Carol Foy, and Ann Pinna, as well as experts Leah Feldman, Director of Domestic Violence Services of Dutchess County, a program of Family Services, and Judy Lombardi, Director of Outreach and Support Services at Grace Smith House. Other team members include Elaine Andersen who will continue to act as Communications Director and Joanne Dyson , who will continue with Data Collection and Analysis.
Invitation to Join the Court Watch Program
If you feel you would like to be a part of this worthwhile program and can contribute one day per month on a consistent basis, please contact Elaine Andersen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Training sessions will occur in the spring with an added emphasis on criminal court operations and more involvement in monitoring town and city courts. We invite you to join us and participate in this very worthwhile cause.
If you wish to learn more about the program, please contact Elaine Andersen .
Elaine Andersen's Story
Follow this link to the Poughkeepsie Journal to hear Elaine's Story in her own words here>>
John W. Barry wrote the article for the Journal on April 24, 2012.